Category Archives: Human Resources

Taxi-company director gets jail sentence for owed wages

SAULT STE MARIE — Hugger Inc., a taxi company known as Checker Cab which is no longer in business, and Hugh Irwin, director of the company in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, were sentenced on October 24 for failing to pay wages owed to more than 30 claimants, totalling nearly $75,000.
According to a court bulletin from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, the case dates back to April 2014, when the Ministry responded to employee complaints about the failure to pay wages at Checker Cab. The Ministry’s employment-standards officer issued the company and its director 63 orders to pay, but the orders were not complied with, and an application to review the orders was not filed.
The director, who failed to pay wages owed, pled guilty and was given a 15-day jail sentence for 32 of the count. He was also ordered not to be involved in any capacity, other than being an employee, in a business for the period of one year. The company received a $1,000 fine for each of 31 counts, including a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge. The company is no longer in business and the director has since filed for bankruptcy, the bulletin states.

Man arrested for threatening, assaulting transit employee

WINNIPEG, Man. – The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) has arrested a 24-year-old man who is accused of assaulting a Winnipeg Transit employee on the morning of Oct. 18. According to a WPS media release, a man entered a bus by the back door without paying a fare and then verbally abused the driver when the latter confronted him. Shortly afterwards, a transit inspector tried to speak with the passenger, and the man threatened and assaulted the inspector, even tearing his uniform in the scuffle. Police were contacted at about 11:58 a.m., and both workers restrained the suspect until WPS General Patrol officers arrived. Winnipeg resident Daniel Caneda was charged with assault, uttering threats and mischief under $5,000.

Man fined $1,000 for letting himself, others work on roof without fall-arrest gear

YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. – A Northwest Territories man has been fined $1,000 after being convicted under the territorial Occupational Health and Safety Regulations for allowing himself, his wife and a friend to work on a roof without fall-protection equipment last year. According to a media release from the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC), Paul Curren and the other two individuals were working on the roof of a home he was building for his family on July 16, 2016; according to the definition under the N.W.T. Safety Act, Curren was acting as an employer and was therefore required to comply with oh&s law. He later pleaded guilty in the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories in Yellowknife to failing to ensure that employees were using a fall-protection system where they could fall at least three metres; other charges were dropped, and Curren was sentenced on Oct. 11 of this year. “It is important to note that a homeowner who has friends, family members or others performing work in or on the home may be an employer under the Safety Act and is required to ensure safe work and compliance with the legislation,” the WSCC stated in the release.

Pulp mill temporarily out of commission following boiler explosion

A recovery-boiler explosion at a pulp mill in Peace River, Alta. on Sept. 22 has caused the facility to cease operations for the time being, but employees of the company that runs the mill are still working with full pay.

Nobody was injured in the incident at the Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd. (DMI) pulp mill, according to Trent Bancarz, a spokesperson for Alberta Labour. The explosion occurred at about 1:30 p.m. that day, he added, and the boiler has been inoperable since then.

“We didn’t issue any stop-use or stop-work orders,” said Bancarz. “Our investigation continues, and we’ve also requested an investigation report from the company.”

Amber Armstrong, DMI’s communications and public-relations superintendent, told COHSN that the explosion had resulted from a smelt water leak in the recovery boiler, which is a ten-story-high unit.

“We had a team on that day that were responding to some indicators that our recovery boiler had some issues,” said Armstrong. “It was quickly determined that there was, in fact, a water leak.” The team immediately initiated emergency protocols and shut down the plant safely.

A recovery boiler produces a substance called black liquor, which turns into smelt, which can become explosive if it comes into contact with water, Armstrong explained. In this case, water leaked from one of the water tubes around the boiler that are intended to cool it down. “What ended up happening is, we had to cool down everything in the recovery boiler and then remove it, and then start looking at each of those water tubes.”

This was the first such incident that had ever happened at the mill, added Armstrong. “But we’re prepared for it,” she said, noting that the company walks through its emergency-response procedures on an annual basis.

“All of our operators, when I interviewed all of them,” she said, “I was like, ‘Were you scared? Were you this?’ And all of them said, ‘We were prepared. We knew when it was happening what to do, and we knew how to shut it down.’

“The training aspect of it over 28 years really kicked in.”

DMI reported the incident to Alberta Labour’s occupational health and safety division on the following day, Bancarz said. Oh&s officials will be visiting the mill to investigate the company’s response to the explosion, and the employer is investigating the incident as well.

“We have our own internal investigation,” said Armstrong, “to make sure we close any gaps. We understand it was an equipment failure, though. We know it’s not a failure related to any of our personnel.”

In the meantime, she added, all of the employees at the mill are still at work, even though the facility is shut down.

“We haven’t had any, and we’re not anticipating any, loss of manpower. We have brought in contractors,” said Armstrong. “Every other operational area in the mill has their own responsibilities that they’re undertaking. They’re doing area projects and cleanups and advancing on training.

“So as much as we hate to have anything affect our ability to produce pulp,” she said, “some of these other areas can really take some time and decrease some of their backlog.”

Bancarz could not determine whether DMI could face any oh&s charges over the incident. Alberta Labour’s current priority is just to investigate, he said.

“That decision’s made by Crown prosecutors, based on whatever facts we gather,” said Bancarz about laying charges. “To say there’d be charges or not would be pure speculation at this point.”

Founded in 1969, DMI is a forest-products company with facilities in Peace River and Quesnel, B.C., according to information from its website. Its corporate headquarters is in Vancouver.

WSIB breached rights of injured Jamaican migrant worker: tribunal

Ontario’s workers’ compensation board violated the rights of a Jamaican migrant worker by slashing his benefits following a back injury, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal ruled during the last week of September.

In what the IAVGO Community Legal Clinic in Toronto called a “historic decision” in an Oct. 5 press release, the Tribunal ordered the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) to pay Michael Campbell compensation based on work available to him in both Jamaica and Ontario. The WSIB’s practice of reducing workers’ comp for temporary foreign workers is unfair and contrary to the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Tribunal determined.

“This decision supports protecting the rights of injured migrant workers, and the Tribunal should be commended,” Airissa Gemma, a community legal worker with IAVGO who represented Campbell, said in a media statement. “The WSIB needs to take immediate steps to change this cruel and unlawful policy.”

Campbell worked on a peach farm in Ontario for nearly a decade, trying to better the lives of his four children, IAVGO stated in the release. He did not have permanent immigration status in Canada, which tied him to one employer and left him with no labour mobility.

After he injured his back in a workplace accident in 2008, the WSIB cut Campbell’s benefits under the assumption that he could still live and work at a minimum-wage job in Ontario. As a result, he lost his livelihood and his ability to work in Ontario and had to return to Jamaica, where his family slipped into poverty.

“What the WSIB does is unfair,” Campbell said in a press statement. “WSIB needs to change its policy now, so no one else has to go through what I went through.”

The Tribunal decision on Campbell’s behalf was the result of a nine-year effort to get justice in his case, the release claimed.

One organization that supported Campbell’s case was Justicia for Migrant Workers (J4MW), a Toronto-based grassroots entity that promotes the rights of temporary foreign workers in Canada.

“Countless injured migrant farm workers and their families have become impoverished and destitute from this WSIB policy,” J4MW organizer Chris Ramsaroop said in a statement. “This decision proves what many have been advocating for years and to no avail: their policy is unfair and… has to stop.”

Local media reports have stated that the WSIB plans to review the Tribunal’s ruling and consider revising its policies.

Funded by Legal Aid Ontario, IAVGO is a legal clinic with a focus on the rights of injured workers.

Violent offender’s transfer sparks safety concerns at youth correctional facility

Employees of the Nova Scotia Youth Facility in Waterville, N.S. are concerned for their safety following the transfer of a 19-year-old murderer from an adult correctional institution, according to the provincial union representing them.

The provincial Department of Justice transferred the young man, who is serving time for stabbing and killing Daniel Pellerin in 2014, from the Waterville facility to the Northeast Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Pictou County last year, after he participated in a riot that seriously injured four youth workers.

But Justice Anne Derrick recently ruled that the offender should not be housed in an adult facility, according to Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union.

“This young person attacked our members,” said MacLean, noting that the offender “is not a small person and has vowed to do it again.”

The offender, who cannot be named publicly under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, has been back at Waterville since Sept. 28. The facility has been keeping him segregated in a cottage on the prison grounds, MacLean explained.

The union’s concern is that the Waterville staff are not properly equipped to handle the risk that this offender poses. The Department of Labour ordered a risk assessment regarding the young man, but “there’s a plethora of things that haven’t been implemented yet,” said MacLean.

For example, the staff were supposed to receive training on the use of pepper spray, but this is yet to happen. In addition, when staff members escort residents outside the facility on temporary leaves, there should be other workers available to take over for them. The assessment also recommended replacing the facility’s large wooden doors with something stronger.

In an e-mailed response to COHSN, the Department of Justice stated that it had a plan in place to maintain everyone’s safety at Waterville, as guided by the courts.

“Every decision the Department makes is based on keeping offenders and staff safe,” the Department wrote. “Staff have up-to-date intervention strategies, including use-of-force training, and we have adopted a new staffing model to ensure the safety and security of staff and young people at all times.”

But MacLean said he believed that the Department did not want to spend the money to protect staff sufficiently. “The cost of things trumps safety and justice in Nova Scotia,” he said.

“You want offender safety, staff safety, and still be able to give offender programming and provide everything that a person would need to be treated humanely, and that costs a fair amount of money, and it doesn’t seem like the Department’s willing to do that. They skimp on staff, and they skimp on the training.”

The Department also tends to take a reactive, rather than proactive, approach to safety issues, MacLean added. “They deal with the situations as they come up,” he said. “And in this case, they’re not even dealing with it as it comes up. They’re making recommendations and are not even fulfilling them.

“It’s just indicative of the McNeil government on how they’ve been operating the whole last four years.”

MacLean wrote a letter to Justice Minister Mark Furey on Sept. 25, urging the Department to remedy all health and safety issues before the offender’s arrival at Waterville. But MacLean had received no response from Furey as of Oct. 2.

“He is somebody that shouldn’t be in a youth facility,” said MacLean about the offender. “My members are telling me that they’re not equipped to deal with him.”

“We recognize the excellent work our youth workers do in Waterville,” the Department wrote in its response. “Correctional Services will continue to ensure supports are in place for our staff to perform to the best of their ability.”

Skid-steer accident claims construction worker, 38

A construction accident with a skid-steer machine claimed the life of a 38-year-old male worker in Stony Plain, Alta. on the afternoon of Sept. 25.

The fatality happened at a housing development, according to Trent Bancarz, a spokesperson with Alberta Labour. The worker was killed by unexplained crush injuries while operating the skid steer, a type of small utility tractor.

“We really don’t know exactly what happened, because there were no actual eyewitnesses to it. Somehow, whatever he was doing, he suffered crush injuries, which were fatal,” explained Bancarz. “It’s the condition he was found in.”

He added that the victim had been an employee of Sparling Concrete, a construction and design company based in Stony Plain. “I’m not even sure exactly his relationship to the project, whether he was a contractor or a sub,” said Bancarz. “That’s another thing we’re sort of looking into right now.”

The incident occurred at about 1:15 p.m. that day, said Corporal Ron Bumbry, a media-relations officer with the Alberta RCMP. Cpl. Bumbry confirmed the victim’s age and said that he had been a resident of Stony Plain, but could not provide much more information.

“There was nothing suspicious or criminal in nature for us to report,” said Cpl. Bumbry, noting that the occupational health and safety division of Alberta Labour had taken over the investigation.

Sparling Concrete did not respond to COHSN’s request for comment.

“Our investigation continues,” said Bancarz.

Founded in 2007, Sparling Concrete provides concrete-based construction and furniture-design services for private and commercial clients in Edmonton, Stony Plain and Spruce Grove, according to information from the company’s website.

While the causes of the fatality are still to be determined, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety in Hamilton, Ont. offers the following tips on operating loaders, including skid steers, on its website:

  • Read and follow all safety instructions in the loader’s operating manual;
  • Stay alert at all times during operation;
  • Keep the bucket and attachments as close to the ground as possible, to keep the vehicle stable and the view clear;
  • Always load the bucket evenly and under its maximum capacity;
  • Avoid holes, rocks and other obstructions;
  • Never operate a loader when ill, tired or on medication that causes drowsiness;
  • Avoid using any loader with a cab that does not have rollover and falling-object protection;
  • Always remain inside the cab while operating steering levers and hydraulic controls;
  • Never leave the loader with the engine running or with the lift arms raised; and
  • Always keep the heavy end of the vehicle pointing towards the higher end when operating on a slope.

Approach to violence in hospitals causes rift in union negotiations

Contract talks broke down between the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) on Sept. 21, following what the union refers to as the employer’s unwillingness to confront workplace violence.

The OHA has been bargaining for a new collective agreement with the union’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) since June, according to a CUPE news release. But CUPE claimed that the association had refused to address the issue of violence against hospital employees, the level of which has been rising in the province in recent years.

“Ontario hospital staff, including those that we represent, are the most productive in Canada. While we have modest economic expectations, we did expect that the hospitals would address the problem of violence in our workplaces,” OCHU president Michael Hurley said in a media statement. “Despite widespread evidence of an epidemic of violent assaults against healthcare staff, Ontario’s hospitals have little interest in bargaining constructive measures to reduce and prevent workplace violence.”

Hurley added that OCHU was proposing solutions that would protect employees and patients in bargaining. “However, the hospitals have refused to engage in meaningful dialogue [on] this very important issue,” he said.

The CUPE release claimed that almost half of direct-care hospital staff report assaults by patients or their relatives every year. In addition, violent incidents are very likely underreported, as employees fear reprisals from management, the union stated.

Among the measures that OCHU has proposed to the OHA to deal with the problem: protection against reprisals; personal alarms for all staff; flagging potentially violent patients in internal systems; increased staffing in emergency departments and psychiatric units; improving reporting systems between the Crown and healthcare institutions; and providing counselling to workers who are assaulted.

“Regrettably this far,” said Hurley, all of these recommendations “have been completely rejected by the hospitals.”

“Many hospital staff have been beaten so badly, they will never work again,” OCHU secretary-treasurer Sharon Richer said in a statement. “We are incredibly disheartened that the hospitals are refusing to address this huge problem in collective bargaining.”

In May, nurses with CUPE and Unifor raised the issue with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and the provincial Liberal government, appealing for assistance.

The Ontario chapter of CUPE represents 27,000 hospital workers at120 hospital sites across the province, including nurses, cleaners and dietary, administrative and trades staff. The vast majority of healthcare workers in the province are women, the union said.

Pilot program to promote women in leadership roles via mentoring

CALGARY, Alta. – A new mentoring program through Alberta Status of Women aims to increase gender equality in the province’s workplaces by expanding leadership opportunities for women. According to a media release from the Alberta government, Status of Women Minister Stephanie McLean launched the six-month program in Calgary on Sept. 20. The initiative will match female workers with leaders in engineering, construction, finance, academia and business development. These mentors will share advice, connections and opportunities with protégés to assist them in their careers, the release added. “All women in Alberta deserve an equal opportunity to succeed, but still face systemic inequalities,” said McLean in a press statement. “Women do double the unpaid care work, get paid less for equal work and are less represented in senior roles. By connecting women with personal champions, we unlock their economic potential and help remove barriers.” Only 39 per cent of senior management positions in Alberta are held by women, the release noted. The government plans to evaluate the mentorship program next spring, before deciding whether to expand it to other sectors and locations.

McDonald’s location issues apology for English-requirement notice to workers

YELLOWKNIFE, N.W.T. – After a McDonald’s restaurant posted a notice requiring its employees to speak only English, the owner and operator of the business has issued an apology letter to workers. The letter, which was posted online in a CBC News story on Sept. 6, was Al Nielsen’s response to the Yellowknife restaurant’s crew and managers regarding the “Language in Workplace” notice posted on Aug. 25. “While the intent of the notice was to address customer feedback, it’s clear the notice was inappropriate,” wrote Nielsen in the letter, which he reportedly issued over Labour Day weekend. “McDonald’s is a place that welcomes and respects EVERYONE… my organization values diversity in all its forms – including language.” He also called the notice “insensitive” and apologized to employees whom it had offended. The original notice had reportedly ordered staff to speak English on the job “99 per cent of the time,” with exceptions in “a few cercumstances [sic].”